This book had its origin in 1969 when I was completing my study of Ruskin's theory and practice as a critic while a Fellow at the Cornell University Society for the Humanities, and so I owe yet another debt of thanks to the Society's founder and then director Professor Max Black. Originally, I had included a section on Holman Hunt in the closing chapter of The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin, but realizing that he required a more detailed treatment than seemed appropriate in the Ruskin volume, I deleted it. When Dr. Frank Taylor, Deputy Director and Principal Keeper of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and editor of its Bulletin, kindly invited me to contribute an essay on Hunt and Ruskin, my work on the painter began in earnest, and I would like to thank Dr. Taylor not only for this invitation but also for his continued valuable assistance, encouragement, and friendship. Mary Bennett, Keeper of British Art, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, is responsible for this volume in several ways: her 1969 exhibition and her writings on the Pre-Raphaelite circle have been an invaluable source of information, and her great generosity in sharing her knowledge and providing other assistance have done much to advance my project.
In order to set Hunt's use of prefigurative iconography within the context of his career, Chapter 1 demonstrates his early concern with finding or creating a fresh effective imagery that would speak to his contemporaries. After glancing at contemporary hostility to pictorial symbolism — particularly that expressed by other members of the Brotherhood — this section examines Hunt's use of Hogarth and Hogarthian devices. Chapter 2, the center of this study, details the complex role of typological symbolism in A Converted British Family sheltering a Christian Priest from the Persecution of the Druids, The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, The Scapegoat, The Shadow of Death, The Triumph of the Innocents, and his stained-glass design Melchizedek, after which it observes the effect of this symbolism on some of his late works.
In the course of this chapter and the previous one I have relied not only on Hunt's letters and diaries but also on his often detailed exhibition catalogues and pamphlets, permitting the artist himself to tell his story whenever possible. There is some danger here, for as Harry Quilter pointed out long ago in Preferences in Art, Life, and Literature, "Hunt's writing is . . . if I may be pardoned for saying so, as un-pre-Raphaelite as is well possible; it is, in studio phrase, "blottesque," conventional, and "treacly" (London, 1892, 30). Nonetheless, it offers us a convenient and often fascinating way into the painter's own conceptions of his art. Since I am emphasizing this aspect of my method, I should also point out that I have drawn heavily upon F. G. Stephens's William Holman Hunt and His Works, the book assembled at Gambart's suggestion for the 1860 exhibition of The Finding from Stephens" s earlier essays in The Crayon. My assumption has been that the detailed descriptions of Hunt's iconography were written either directly under his direction or after conversations with him, for my understanding of the close friendly relationship of the two men and of Stephens's own lack of interest in pictorial symbolism makes this interpretation seem most likely. Certainly, nothing in the correspondence or in Hunt's published statements contradicts such an assumption.
Finally, a closing chapter attempts to place Hunt within the context of the Pre-Raphaelite circle by demonstrating that he was not the only one of its members to make elaborate use of typology. As we shall observe, Millais, Collins, Collinson, and Rossetti all employed prefigurative symbolism, though only Rossetti continued to find it as attractive as Hunt.
Having indicated how I propose to examine Hunt's career in terms of his continual search for a means of reconciling realism and symbolism, matter and spirit, I should point out what this study is not: to begin with, it is not a study of his life and works, for although we shall examine what I take to be one center of his work and career, we shall not look closely at such interesting subjects as his costume pictures, book illustration, and portraiture. Furthermore, although this study is intended to change some ideas of what the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was all about and hence frequently draws upon Hunt's associates for example and comparison, it does not provide another history of the movement. It similarly devotes little attention to Ford Madox Brown, whose Work is one of the greatest Victorian fusions of symbolism with a realistic style, largely because I am convinced that Brown's interest in such endeavor was prompted by Pre-Raphaelite example and hence not an influence upon Hunt. Likewise, when arguing for Hunt's use of Hogarthian devices, this study does not turn away from the main discussion to examine the works of Egg, Frith, and others which offer obvious comparison. In thus restricting myself fairly rigorously to the development of William Holman Hunt's theory and practice of an integrated pictorial symbolism, I hope to have provided the student of Victorian art and culture with a deeper understanding of one of the most heroically ambitious painters of the age.
For their assistance, their encouragement, and their putting up with my obsession with Hunt, I would like to thank Harold Bloom, John L. Bradley, Kermit S. Champa, John Parke Custis, James Dearden, Christopher Forbes, William E. Fredeman, Ernest Frerichs, Dorothy Gillerman, Elizabeth and Howard Helsinger, David Hirsch, Frank Jordy, Margaret Kelly, Michael Komanecky, George Monteiro, Bernard Richards, Peyton Skipwith, Barton Levi St. Armand, Julian Treuherz, Mary Volk, Miranda Strickland-Constable, Mary Warner Marien and Bernard Richards.
Throughout my work the painter's heirs, Diana Holman-Hunt and Mrs. Elizabeth Burt Tompkin, have been most generous with their assistance and encouragement. I would also like to thank the many institutions and individuals who have provided photographs, allowed me access to their collections, or otherwise aided my endeavors: the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; the Trustees of Sir Colin and Lady Anderson; the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, and Keble College, Oxford; the Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery; the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford; the British Library; the Print Room of the British Museum; the Dulwich College Picture Gallery; the Chicago Art Institute; the Fogg Art Museum and the Houghton Library, Harvard University; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the Forbes Magazine Collection; the Guildhall Art Gallery, London; the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California; the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight; Laing Art Gallery and Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; the Leeds City Art Gallery; the Dean and Chapter of Llandaff Cathedral; the Manchester City Art Galleries and the Central Library, Manchester; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Antwerp; the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the National Gallery, London; the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice; the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield; Sotheby's Belgravia; the Southampton Art Gallery; the Tate Gallery, London; the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; the Whitworth Art Gallery, Victoria University of Manchester; the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, Wilmington, Delaware; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; the Libraries of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, and Princeton Universities, and of the Union Theological Seminary, New York and of the Universities of Texas and Durham; the Pierpont Morgan Library; the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; the Hospital of St. John and the Groeningemuseum, Bruges; the Cathedral of St. Bavon, Ghent; and the Art Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Brown University provided grants which supported my research at various stages in my work, and I am especially grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation whose generosity gave me the opportunity to complete this study.I would like to thank Professor Linda H. Peterson for helping me proofread the manuscript, and William Condon, Sarah C. Frerichs, Shoshana M. Landow, Joan Pettigrew, and Sarah Webster for helping me proofread the galleys for this book.
My greatest debt is to my wife Ruth, who worked with me on the Pre-Raphaelite manuscripts at the Rylands and Bodleian Libraries, and in many of the galleries and museums in Great Britain. The following pages owe much to her assistance, encouragement, and gracious forbearance.
Providence, Rhode Island
Last modified December 2001